Many local films play in April 1-14 Latino Film Fest

The emphasis of the April 1-14 Chicago Latino International Film Festival “is on new talent, with more than 20 features made by first time directors,” says Pepe Vargas, founder and executive director of the world-acclaimed event, now in its 27th year.

Pepe Vargas, festival founder and executive producer

This year the Latino Fest will screen more than 100 films, including nearly a dozen from local filmmakers, from 18 countries across Ibero-America.

Unlike other festivals, “We work in a different fashion,” Vargas notes.  “We don’t promote heavily for entries, but leave the door open to filmmakers and chose according to what we know works with Chicago audiences,” which has one of the most diverse communities in the U.S.

“The festival is a cultural tool to let people know about the Latino culture that comes from everywhere.”

From Chicago come three Chicago-produced feature-length films and eight shorts.

In their documentary I Am the Queen, multimedia artists Henrique Cirne Lima and Josue 

Pellot follow several contestants in the Cacique Pageant, a transgender beauty contest put on each May by Vida/SIDA, the HIV-awareness and sex education program of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

It screens April 1 and April 14 at Instituto Cervantes, 31 E. Ohio.

The girls in scene from "I am the Queen"

Ricardo Islas adapted his Colombia-shot drama, Over and Over Again, from executive producer Fabio Herrera’s memoir about being molested by Catholic priests as a boy in Columbia and living with obsessive compulsive disorder.

April 9 at Landmark Century Centre and April 13 at Instituto Cervantes.

Octavio Lopez’ Only One Way Out is a drama about a Florida dancer whose romance of a local girl is challenged by neighborhood toughs.

April 5 at Landmark and April 9 at Instituto Cervantes.

Chicago-made shorts include Miguel Silveira’s IFP/Chicago Production Fund-winning Rooftop Wars; Jaime Mariscal’s Dawn; Enrique Leyva’s Insecure Certainty; Javier Vargas’ Jayuya, Tierra Taina; John Psathas’ Milwaukee; Jim Wall’s Anna’s Ordeal; Pablo Perea’s The First and Only Lesson and Josach’s Out of the Shadows, the honorable mention student film award winner.

The Latino Fest opens April 1 with a Tribute to Argentina: a screening of Argentina director’s Miguel Cohan’s No Return at AMC River West at 6 p.m.

A reception follows at River East Arts Center with No Return’s star, Leonardo Sparaglia, music, tango dancers and Argentine food and wines, at the River East Art Center.

The fest closes April 14 with an awards ceremony and Mexican director Felipe Cazals’ Chico Grande at the AMC River East and a closing reception at the Arts Center.

Click here for complete program information.